Southland top in swim lessons
Every primary schoolchild learns to swimCOLLETTE DEVLIN
Southland is the only region in New Zealand where every primary schoolchild is getting professional swimming lessons, the national water safety group says.
Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge said it was the first time all children in a region had access to swimming lessons, which was an incredible achievement.
The initiative, called Swim Safe Southland, is a partnership between Water Safety New Zealand, Sport Southland, Southern REAP and Swimming New Zealand, and is part of the nationwide Sealord Swim for Life.
The initiative was aimed at reducing the region's drowning toll by getting children into the water and learning to swim.
It rolled out three years ago with about 3000 children. Now, all 7921 of Southland's year one to year eight pupils attending primary schools would get 10 swimming lessons a year from trained instructors, he said.
The lessons covered water safety skills and had the aim of getting each pupil swimming 200 metres.
Nationally, only one in five 10-year-olds could swim 200m, which was the benchmark for being able to swim and survive. This meant 80 per cent of 10-year-olds could not swim well enough to save themselves, he said.
Pupils would be given before and after assessments to measure the impact of the lessons.
Transport costs would also be subsidised for schools that needed it, while out of school time was minimised by instructors travelling to the local community or school pools to take the lessons.
Mr Claridge said Southland would be used as an example for the rest of the country and he hoped similar programmes would be rolled out elsewhere.
It was only through the dedication and vision of all community partners that the vital and life-saving initiative happened, he said. "The way the Southland community came together with a willingness to make the programme happen, was fantastic . . . there was an absolute desire to make this happen and we are seeing it flourish."
Other funding support came from Sport NZ's KiwiSport Regional Partnership Fund, Southland and Gore District councils, the Community Trust of Southland, and the Invercargill and Mataura licensing trusts.
Swim Safe Southland Advisory Board spokeswoman Vanessa Hughey said the strength of the initiative had been the collaborative approach from all organisations involved.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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